"Get On With it" and Get A Job, Judge Tells Ex Wife

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A judge has made scathing remarks to the ex-wife of a millionaire racehorse surgeon after her husband brought a challenge to the maintenance he was paying following their divorce in 2008.

Employment Application

The Right To Be Supported?

One of the things you may expect to pay when you split up from your ex is maintenance, whether it is for the children or your partner following your split. This is usually conducted under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 that allows periodical payments, lump sums or a property order. However, Lord Justice Pitchford has told former riding instructor Tracey Wright to go and get a job as it should not be expected that she has a right to be "supported for life" by her ex-husband, especially when she had made no effort to earn in her own right since the split.

Since 2000, the role of the homemaker has been given equal status to that of the breadwinner, leading to the sharing of marital assets equally in most cases. This is usually because the wife would have sacrificed building her career to take care of the family whilst her husband worked. Victoria Walker, family law expert at Simpson Millar LLP commented by saying "The level of maintenance is not a formula like child maintenance; it’s based on what the wife needs and what a husband can afford. Known as 'spousal maintenance', it varies in every case." In this case, that maintenance totalled £33,200 annually.

Mr Wright was worried that supporting his wife indefinitely into his retirement would be unsustainable and unfair, so he took his protests to court. Victoria commented by saying, "How much a wife needs will vary over time depending on her own income. There is no set rule as to when this maintenance should end, it could be just for a few years to enable the wife to retrain and get back on her feet, or when the children finish their education or it could be until the husband retires or when he dies."

Mrs Wright had not done any work for 6 years following the divorce and was "evasive" when asked about her own earning capacity. This led Judge Lynn Roberts last year to say, "It is essential... that she starts to work now" as Mrs Wright had operated on the assumption that she would be a kept woman for life with no need to update her current skillset.

Cases Could Be Reconsidered

Following that, Judge Pitchford agreed with the previous judge by saying "There is a general expectation that, once children are in year two, mothers can begin part time work and make a financial contribution." In Mr and Mrs Wright's case, their youngest daughter was 10 years old. He went on to say that, "The time had come to recognise that, at the time of his retirement, the husband should not be paying spousal maintenance."

When asked to comment on this particular story, Victoria went on to say, "In this case it seems that the wife has done nothing to get a job and support herself and is reliant entirely on her husband, something the court clearly doesn’t want to condone."

"It’s really not surprising that the 42 year old law (the Matrimonial Causes Act) and old cases are out of touch with the reality of women working when the world is a very different place for women now. I suspect husbands everywhere will welcome this case and it will be interesting to see how many cases are returned to court to be reconsidered."


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